Are The Giants The Worst Super Bowl Champs Ever? It’s Debatable, But Probably Not

posted in NFL

After a championship game in any sport, the question inevitably arises: “How do this year’s champions rank compared to past winners?”

In the case of the 2011-12 New York Giants, the public perception seems to be low. Very low.

Teams that get hot at the right time and roll to a Super Bowl are nothing new. After all, five of the past seven winners weren’t good enough in the regular season to earn a first-round bye, and that’s not including other teams like the 2008 Arizona Cardinals, who appeared in Super Bowl XLIII despite finishing with just a 9-7 regular season record.

But there’s an interesting stat floating around about this year’s Giants: Not only were they the first team to win the title after going 9-7 in the regular season, but it’s also the first time ever that the Super Bowl champions were outscored (400-394) during the regular season.

Does That Make New York The Worst Super Bowl Champ Ever?

That’s a debate that could carry on in sports bars in the Northeast for years to come, but the answer is probably no. First off, there’s more to judging a team’s ranking than simply regular-season point differential. Second, delving deeper into the Giants’ stats reveals there was more to their 9-7 record than meets the eye.

For example, if you include the playoffs, New York had the toughest strength of schedule of any team in the NFL this season. Even before the postseason started, it was the third-toughest schedule in the league. That helps explain the team’s poor regular-season record.

In our 2011 predictive power rankings, the Giants drew a 34.0, ranking only behind the New Orleans Saints’ mark of 35.2. Looking back at Super Bowl winners since the 2003 season, this year’s Giants actually rank ahead of four of the previous eight champions in predictive power rankings.

The lowest-rated team to win a Super Bowl? Somewhat ironically, it was the 2007 New York Giants. Here’s the list:

2010: Green Bay Packers (37.4 — first)
2009: New Orleans Saints (33.9 — first)
2008: Pittsburgh Steelers (35.1 — first)
2007: New York Giants (33.5 — third)
2006: Indianapolis Colts (33.9 — second)
2005: Pittsburgh Steelers (37.3 — first)
2004: New England Patriots (38.6 — first)
2003: New England Patriots (33.9 — first)

Basically, all those rankings mean is that if the 2011 Giants played an average team this season, they’d be favored by more points than either the 2009 Saints, 2007 Giants, 2006 Colts or 2003 Patriots would have been favored against an average team from their respective seasons.

It’s only part of an argument that will surely rage on in the weeks to come, but these stats seem to reveal that this year’s Giants weren’t as bad as their regular season results indicated.

Letting It Ride

Before the playoffs began, the Giants were listed at anywhere between +1800 and +2300 at most sportsbooks to win the Super Bowl. They were a trendy pick at the time, but if you thought they’d win the championship, would you have been better off just letting your winnings ride on the money line in each successive game?

As it turned out, yes.

Even taking the best payout on futures odds (+2300), a $100 bet would’ve turned into $2,400 after the Giants were crowned champions.

But if you took the same $100 and bet New York on the money line each game, letting the winnings ride after each victory, your payout would’ve been significantly higher. Take a look:

Wild Card: Giants (-145) vs. Falcons. Risk $100 to win $68.97.
Giants (+290) at Packers. Risk $168.97 to win $490.01.
Giants (+105) at 49ers. Risk $658.98 to win $691.93.
Super Bowl:
Giants (+115) vs. Patriots. Risk $1,350.91 to win $1,553.55.
$100 turns into $2,904.46.

That’s more than $500 of a difference. Obviously, it’d be tough to convince a $100 bettor to lay down more than $1,300 on the Super Bowl, but the point remains. Sometimes creative betting can be used to earn more of a payout from sportsbooks if you have a “hunch” about an undervalued team.

Bradshaw’s Gaffe

Ahmad Bradshaw’s last-minute touchdown run to give New York the go-ahead score will undoubtedly go down as one of the most awkward in Super Bowl history, but it also saved a potentially gigantic payday from sportsbooks on a particular prop bet.

At the LVH SuperBook, you could bet on the exact amount of points scored by either the Patriots or the Giants. Common scores like 21, 28 or 31 carried much less of a payout, but there were big odds posted for less frequent numbers.

One of those “weird” numbers: 18.

Had Bradshaw simply fallen down at the 1-yard line as he was likely instructed to do, we’ll assume the Giants would have gone on to kick a last-second field goal and win the game 18-17.

Aside from truly crazy numbers like 2, 4, 5, 11 and 12, the number 18 for the Giants’ final score carried the biggest payout: 200-to-1.

That means bettors who had a crazy notion to lay down $100 on that prop (you know at least one person was daring enough to do it) missed out on a potential $20,000 payday.

Instead, the touchdown made the Giants’ final score the relatively boring number of 21, which only paid 12-to-1.

Even more maddening? Had New York just kicked the extra point instead of trying (and failing) to convert for two, bettors who took 22 as the Giants’ final score would’ve earned a 100-to-1 payday.